I was tagged to participate in an Author/Illustrator Blog Tour by the great illustrator, Matthew Cook, who illustrated The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie. Every author or illustrator who participates answers the same 4 questions. Check out Matthew’s answers here, and mine below!
What am I currently working on?
I am currently finishing up the last book in the Truth or Dare trilogy. It’s called Kiss and Tell, and it comes out on Feb 3rd. All the’ mysteries in the series get wrapped up this book, so it was a lot of fun to write!
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
When you create a brand new world, I think you draw from a well of your own personal memories and beliefs and likes and dislikes…and that all gets threaded into your vision in one way or another. For me, that’s what sets my work apart from other books in a genre. I think it’s most apparent in my Misfit Menageries series. Those books were very much shaped by my lifelong love for animals, and my belief in the importance of friendship between kids and animals. My memories of my relationship with my first dog, Willow, absolutely impacted how I wrote about the friendship between Bertie and Smalls!
Why do I write/illustrate what I write/illustrate?
I write for both kids and teens, which is the age group I’ve always dreamed of writing for. I think it’s because of how incredibly important books were to me at that age. There was nothing more exciting than coming home from the bookstore or library with a tall stack of books — knowing all the places I would soon travel to and people I would soon meet within their pages. As I got older, it became my dream to foster that same kind of excitement for reading in other kids. It’s one of the reasons I love doing school visits so much; any time you get to bring a book alive for a kid in a different way, it helps take the reading experience to a whole new level. It’s my hope that, in some small way, my books and school visits have brought the same kind of excitement to kids and teens that my favorite authors once brought to me. (I still remember the time I met Judy Blume at a bookstore signing… Best. Day. Ever.)
How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?
I get my best plotting and first draft writing done while walking. Yup: walking. There’s something about my legs moving and oxygen flowing to my brain and scenery passing me by that really spurs on my creative juices. I’ve worked out a whole system for this. I have a writing app on my phone, and I will literally walk around (Slowly! With lots of stops for street corners!) for miles, just typing away. The downside is that I look to the casual passerby as if I am furiously, desperately texting my friends. (I’m not! I’m writing a book! I swear!) But I get some of my best writing done this way, so I’ve accepted that I will forever be known as the crazy neighborhood texter.
Revisions are a bit of a different story. With bigger revisions, I still try to get out and move around, but as I get down to the nitty gritty of a manuscript, I really need a desk and computer. So I try to work in front of a nice window or bring my laptop to a favorite coffee shop. Obviously, I’ve written anywhere and everywhere over the years (planes, subways, the backseat of a car, locked away at in a bedroom at a holiday dinner…you get the gist), but I find I work most efficiently and enjoyably when I’m in a setting that I like.
Tag another author or illustrator!
I have some fun news! I’ve started a YA-focused Tumblr blog with 3 other authors.
Between the 4 of us, we’ve published 9 YA novels and counting; worked at 4 publishing houses and 2 literary agencies; received 2 MFA degrees in Writing for Children; edited and marketed hundreds of novels; and spent way too many hours debating the merits of Stefan vs. Damon and Dessen vs. Green.
Now we’ve banded together to create a blog about all things books, writing, publishing, and entertainment.
Bottom Line: If it looks like YA, and it sounds like YA, and it reads like YA, then we’ll be gossiping about (um…we mean discussing) it HERE.
Check out my interviews and musings on these great book blogs!
Dear Teen Me: A letter from present me to teen me. This was hard to write! Ad also fun. And kind of cathartic…
Chick Loves Lit: An interview about the Truth or Dare series (and of course my always-embarrassing writing quirks), with a Rafflecopter with a giveaway of both books!
Maji Bookshelf: An interview, along with a review of Secrets and Lies!
Adventures in YA Publishing: Find out which series I wish I’d written!
Jean Book Nerd: Find out what inspired me to be a writer, and enter to win a copy of SECRETS AND LIES!
Now through Monday, the TRUTH OR DARE ebook is on sale for $1.99 on Kobo!
Just in time to read book 1 before its sequel, SECRETS AND LIES, comes out May 6…
March brings big news for Truth or Dare!
Not only does the sequel, Secrets and Lies, come out in 48 days (who’s counting??), but there is a HUGE e-book sale going on RIGHT NOW.
Until the end of March, Truth or Dare is under $4.00 on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo!
TOP TOP IT OFF, I’LL BE DOING TWO TRUTH OR DARE EVENTS THIS WEEKEND!
On Saturday, March 22 at 2:40pm, I will be at the New York Public Library at 455 5th Ave, as part of NYC Teen Author Festival. You can find the full details HERE.
On Sunday, March 23 at 1:45pm, I’ll be signing copies of Truth or Dare at Books of Wonder with 60 (yes, you read right: 60!!!) other YA authors. You can find the full details HERE.
As some of you probably know, I’m obsessed with Books of Wonder. (It’s pretty much the ultimate children’s book store.) Sooo you can imagine that I’m pretty psyched about being part of a MASSIVE 60-author signing.
I hope to see some of you there, and at the NYPL!
It’s the holiday season, also known as the only reason to like the winter. (Other than the first snow. And hot chocolate. And Meg Ryan rom-coms playing over and over on TV. Okay fine, there are some other reasons to like winter.) ANYWAY, in honor of the gift-giving season, I’m giving things away! Two things, to be precise.
The first are signed adhesive book plates. They look like this, and ANYONE who emails me gets one!
The second is a signed TRUTH OR DARE swag pack. It looks like this:
Here’s how it all works…
1. Are you giving Truth or Dare or a Misfit Menagerie book as a gift this season? Or using your new gift card to buy one for yourself? Then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by January 5th, 2014.
2. Include EXACTLY what you want me to say on the book plate. (The name I’m signing it out to and a *short* message if you’d like.) **Please also let me know if it’s for a TRUTH OR DARE or MENAGERIE book!**
3. Include a mailing address where I can mail the book plate.
4. Receive your signed/personalized book plate in the mail and stick it on the book’s title page. Voila: signed book!
*Offer open only to US residents*
FOR SWAG PACK:
Enter here by 12/18: Holiday Rafflecopter Giveaway!!
It’s official: I’ve joined the Tumblr world. I was a little scared at first, having never been on it, but now I’m kind of in love. My Tumblr is called Not Your Teacher’s Reading List and I use it to blog about all things YA. And writing. And dogs. But mostly YA! If it isn’t on a class syllabus, it will most likely be on my Tumblr. (And yes, that includes Damon from the The Vampire Diaries),
Okay, back to Tumblr’ing—ahem, I mean revisions. Definitely revisions.
On Monday, October 21st, I will be at the Barnes & Noble in Bensalem, PA, signing TRUTH OR DARE and both MENAGERIE books! (And hosting a little raffle to win an advanced copy of SECRETS AND LIES.) Come by anytime between 6-8pm.
Barnes & Noble
300 Neshaminy Mall
Bensalem, PA 19020
This week, the Washington Post’s KidsPost is reading The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie in their Summer Book Club! I was so excited to see the book on their KidsPost homepage. (Under “Readers Corner.”)
The Post also included a full description of the book:
If any of you are reading along with the Post, I’d love to hear about it! Send me an email to let me know at email@example.com — and I’ll send you a signed bookplate in return.
Happy summer reading!
A little while ago, I participated in a fourth grade book club led by an elementary school teacher. The book club meets once a month before school to eat donuts and fruit while discussing the book they read that month. Sometimes, they’ll Skype with the author of that book, and in February, I was lucky enough to be that author.
Here’s the book club with The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie!
And here’s their great set-up! How much do you wish you could be part of this club??
I had such a great time talking with the students of the club. It made me wish I had a program like that when I was in school! I was so inspired by their thoughtful questions that I decided to answer several of them here on my blog as well. Thanks for chatting, 4th graders!
Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
There’s no doubt about it: I’m partial to Wombat. I just feel for him. He loves Tilda so much and he means so well—but he can be so oblivious! I chuckle a lot when I’m writing about him. I do have to say, though: there’s a new animal character that shows up in the sequel to The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie, and he just might give Wombat a run for his money.
Is there going to be a sequel and what is it going to be about?
There is! The sequel is called A Valiant Quest for the Misfit Menagerie. In it, the Misfits take off on a quest that leads them through a wild forest, a packed city center, and the biggest toy store in the world. Along the way, they encounter danger, adventure, new friends—and, of course, lots of toys!
You can find a fun pre-order contest for A Valiant Quest here!
How does it feel to have kids reading your book?
Amazing, incredible, exciting, stupendous…I could go on and on. The books I read at this age had such a life-long impact on me. I love knowing that now a book I wrote has a chance to make that kind of impact.
Who or what inspired you to write this story?
My very first dog, Willow, was a big inspiration to me in writing about the Menagerie. She was a real part of my family growing up. It was from her that I learned that you don’t need to speak the same language to be a true friend. I thought about my relationship with Willow a lot when writing about Bertie’s connection to Smalls and the other animals.
How did you come up with the word, “Bajumba”?
I love this question. One, because no one’s ever asked me that before, and two, because I have no idea! I was writing one day and it just popped into my head, and I knew I had to put it down on paper. For me, some of the best parts of my stories come into existence in that way. In fact, that’s how the character of Susan came to be.
Do you have any pets and if so, what kind?
I have a tiny poodle named Maple who does an excellent job at keeping me company while I write. She is pro at sleeping for hours on end while I type away next to her!
Why did you include an evil character like the ring leader?
This is a great question, and one I’m asked often during school visits. I included the evil character of Claude for many reasons, but the one I think is most important is that he provides a window into what Bertie’s future could look like, if he makes the same choices as Claude. Claude wasn’t always evil. In fact, once he was just a little boy like Bertie. But hard things happened in his life, and when they did, Claude chose to become angrier, to grow meaner. Until one day he was no longer that sweet boy, but an angry, mean ringmaster.
In this book, many bad things happen to Bertie—just as bad things once happened to Claude. Bertie is faced with a choice. He ran rise above the bad and hold on to who he is what makes him good. Or he can give into the bad, and let it change him the way it changed Claude. I think making that choice is the most heroic thing Bertie does in this book.
How did you come up with the chapter titles?
In every chapter, I would find something that jumped out at me—a funny scene or an interesting phrase or a new character, for example—and then use that as the title. It was fun way of drawing attention to it!
Do you have a special place that you like to write?
I love to write while looking outside, so I often write in my kitchen where I have a great view out the window. I also have a coffee shop that I like to write in. It serves the best chai lattes in the world!
What gave you the idea for the Lloyds?
With the Lloyds, I wanted to show what happens when someone blindly follows someone else. The Lloyds aren’t mean, exactly; they just never think for themselves. They do whatever Claude tells them to—without first thinking it through or wondering if it will hurt someone. In that way, they end up being just as evil as Claude.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember—and I have been reading for just as long. Books and stories have always been a huge part of my life, even before I decided I wanted to be a writer. Which leads me to our final question…
What advice do you have for children who want to write?
READ! Read everything and anything, as much and as often as you can. Reading makes you a better writer. It’s a rule I still follow to this day.